(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A report by the Israel Democracy Institute has highlighted severe failings in the Civilian Service Program which haredi men can join in lieu of army service, including falling enlistment numbers and fictitious placements.
The program, despite its problems, remains part of the proposals for increasing haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment to the IDF.
Legislation proposed by the Defense Ministry in the last Knesset for increasing haredi enlistment established a target of 648 recruits for the civilian service in the first year of the law, amounting to some 16% of the total annual targets for haredi national service.
But figures cited by the IDI report show that in 2014, there was a steep drop-off in recruitment after the previous government passed its haredi enlistment law, when large numbers of potential recruits were given permanent military service exemptions.
Coupled with the fact that pay in the civilian service is significantly less than in the IDF, targets have been dramatically missed.
In 2016, the target of 2,000 recruits was missed by 66%, in 2015 it was missed by over 50% and in 2014 by almost 60%. No target was set for 2017.
Targets for enlistment to the IDF were better fulfilled, so that in 2016 the target was 3,200 recruits and the total number who enlisted was 2,850, some 89% of the target.
The IDI study also included two surveys, one conducted among 200 graduates of National Civic Service in 2017, and one among 81 new volunteers for service.
The study showed that approximately 80% of the participants in the Civilian Service Program volunteer in nonprofits (“third sector organizations”) within the haredi community, and have almost no contact with non-haredi populations.
“Thus it is not surprising that only 16% of the graduates reported an improvement in their attitude toward the non-ultra-Orthodox population as a result of their service,” wrote report author Dr. Asaf Malchi.
Another cause of the low recruitment rate is the low monthly stipends paid to civilian service recruits, especially compared to what the IDF pays for a married man with children, which many haredim are.
As a remedy to these issues, Malchi recommends that volunteering in the nonprofit sector for civilian service be phased out.
Instead, he proposed that program participants perform their service exclusively in security and government agencies, such as the Israel Police, the Prison Service, the Fire Service, Magen David Adom, and United Hatzalah.
He also recommends that the entire department of the Civilian Service Program be transferred from the Prime Minister’s Office to either the IDF itself or the Internal Security Ministry.
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